Law and Sexuality

A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests

Folsom Street Fair and the Bareback War: The Renegade Invasion

As some of you will be aware, this weekend sees the huge Folsom Street Fair take place in San Francisco. It’s an annual event increasingly noted for its controversy as it find itself under greater media and social scrutiny and, like so many LGBT events, it has found itself wrestling with the tensions that arise with such scrutiny. A kink, alternative and rebellious event has become increasingly sanitised and safe. The open nudity and sex acts have previously come under focus with city government figures advocating tents to hide such folks from the “families” that are apparently increasingly visiting.

The official day for the event is tomorrow (Sunday 27th) but the event pulls folks into town for the weekend. Whilst the annual International Mr Leather event is a kinky event within the confines of a hotel, Folsom is an opportunity to celebrate kink identities outdoors and takes place in San Francisco’s SOMA (South of Market Area) which is ordinarily a mixture of leather stores, shops and the famous sex clubs BlowBuddies and Mack Folsom Prison.

The Fair website notes that ‘with over 400,000 people in attendance covering 13 city blocks, the Fair is the largest leather/fetish event in the world and the third largest, single-day outdoor event in California’. The site also states that this year (the 27th fair)

Perhaps predictably, Folsom has also become another battle scene for the ongoing bareback war. Treasure Island Media (TIM), the notorious bareback porn company has been excluded from the event for a few years but interestingly is taking action this year. They are seeking to host a couple of ‘underground events’. The TIM describes their two events (one today, one tomorrow) as follows:

‘So we’re having a balls-out booze party on Saturday (at CHAPS II on Folsom @3pm) and a rollicking no-rules chaotic sex-party on Sunday (at MACK on Folsom @12noon).

These events are at the same time and place as the Folsom Street Fair (from which we’ve been banned because we’re disobedient)—but they are in a different more free and radical universe: the TIM UNDERGROUND.

Come hang out fuck or blow one or two of our guys get drunk smoke pot do whatever the fuck you feel like doing’.

On the one hand, these events no doubt cater for many of the guys who love Folsom and anyone who’s familiar with Folsom will be unsurprised at its involvement. Whilst BlowBuddies has long positioned itself as a safe sex club (for historical reasons which I’ll be talking about in my forthcoming book, drawing on some archive evidence), Folsom is the seedier venue. Although it officially is also a ‘safe sex’ club, it is known for its sleazy bareback sexual encounters. It’s also worth remembering that the prospect of meeting a porn performer is one thing, the prospect of being one of those giving a blow-job, fucking or being fucked by a star like Cory Koons (who is there) or other stars such as Christian (not sure but I would imagine will be) is quite another.

Such ‘appearances’ are undoubtedly good for business and despite Paul Morris (owner and TIM master of deviance) repeated statements that these bans boost business, a presence at these events must surely help support the business and brand awareness. This approach also helps cement their image as the ‘renegades’, the underground guys. It’s further evidence of how utterly miss-judged, counter-productive and plain wrong the ban on bareback companies like TIM is.

Undoubtedly, Mack Folsom Prison must also have made a calculation that it is in their interest to be linked to TIM in this way and they must also be prepared to face the heat. For them, it is a very clear and open positioning of themselves as a bareback venue.

Their website, like the venue itself continues to offer the typical safe sex guidance:

-Cum on me, NOT in me.
-Don’t take cum (semen) or blood into your body.
-No fucking without condom.
-No unprotected rimming.
-Fisting or fingering should be done with latex.
-Dildo and sex toys should not be shared unless protected or cleaned between uses.

Maybe they should do a new ‘Come in me, not on me’ poster? These events are turn is a significant moment in tracing the historical evolution of these venues in San Francisco. There very existence is a response to the legal onslaught of the 1980s against bathhouses which led to their absence from San Francisco.

This weekend, another battle is taking place in the bareback war. Once again, the bareback renegades look set to win. Whether you support, love or hate companies like TIM, the events of this weekend should cause pause for thought and reflection on how the war is faring.

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This entry was posted on September 25, 2010 by in barebacking, Censorship, Community, fetish, leather, Pornography, safer sex, san francisco.

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